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Thursday, 13 April 1961


Mr CAIRNS (Yarra) .- I have sympathy for the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon), because I know of his very deep affection for the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). The honorable member has found it necessary to defend his leader in the present situation, and it must have been a very painful experience for him. It is the duty of the Opposition to criticize the leaders of the Government, and I can understand that a person who has such a deep affection for the Prime Minister as the honorable member has might think it necessary to answer that criticism with such cheap jibes as " a cheap political trick " and " a danger to the security of Australia ". However, it was a little unreasonable for the honorable member to use those terms in association with his description of his leader's work. He referred to the " superhuman efforts " of the Prime Minister.

I remind the House and the people of the attitude adopted by supporters of the Government towards the leaders of the Australian Labour Party. Government criticism has been extreme, bitter and exaggerated at all times, but when Opposition criticism is levelled at the leader of the Government who has made a mess of things, that criticism is referred to as a cheap political trick and a danger to the security of Australia. The Parliament and the people of Australia must examine critically the work of their leaders, who are not perfect by any means. We of the Opposition have a duty to make our criticism overt and clear.

By way of amendment to the motion that is now being discussed, the Opposition has moved that the speeches and statements made by the Prime Minister in relation to South Africa have harmed Australia; that they do not represent the views of the Australian people and that, because of this, he should occupy no longer the position of Minister for External Affairs. There has been some concern for a long time about the Prime Minister exercising these two most important functions, and people in all walks of life have felt that no man, not even a superhuman one, can discharge properly the tasks associated with the two portfolios. In its amendment the Labour Party points clearly to the position that has been taken up by people all over Australia in the last few months. The substance of the Labour Party's proposal is consistent with the position of Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and other members of the Commonwealth of Nations. In this sense, only Australia is out of step, and Australia is out of step because it has been in step too long with the Government of South Africa.

We are concerned with Commonwealth affairs. Perhaps the most important organization of nations in the world to-day for the good of mankind is the Commonwealth of Nations. If the Commonwealth of Nations is to be founded upon an empty formal principle of sovereignty, and if it refuses to be concerned with the principles of humanity and morals, it will amount to nothing. That is the issue which to-day is before the people of Australia.

The House and the people are being asked to test the Prime Minister on the South African issue. What has he said and done? I submit that the Opposition has proved its case. It has proved that the Prime Minister has allowed Australia to become associated with the racial policy of the Government of South Africa. I do not claim that the Prime Minister is sympathetic towards that policy, but by his conduct he has permitted Australia in the minds of the people who know of this situation, to become associated with the Government of South Africa and its policy of apartheid. I submit that the Opposition has proved that he maintained that position until he was forced, only last week, by a change in the attitude of the United Kingdom to depart from that position. I submit that the Opposition has proved that hp continued " bitter and intemperate recriminations " - I am quoting the London " Times " - following the defeat of his legalistic defence of the South African Government's right to continue its racial policy free even of criticism among the British Commonwealth Prime Ministers.

I submit that the Opposition has proved that the Prime Minister refused to face constructively the task of the Commonwealth of Nations in this new world, because the task involves the abandonment of legalistic obstructions to the operation of great human principles. The Commonwealth of Nations will survive, and against the unrelenting resistance of those who take the position of the the Prime Minister of Australia. It has refused to adopt legalism as a foundation. Instead, it has adopted humanity as a foundation. The Commonwealth of Nations is a far greater organization to-day because it has made that decision.

Now let me try to sum up the evidence of this association with the racial policy of South Africa. It is not only just now. There have been votes in the United Nations for some years on this question of apartheid. Australia supported South Africa on this question from 1953 to 1956, until the number of votes in the United Nations in favour of South Africa had fallen to five. Australia abstained from voting on this question in 1959 and 1960, when the number of votes had fallen to four.


Mr Anthony - What did the United Kingdom do?


Mr CAIRNS - She learned a bit sooner than we did. In 1961 Australian intended to abstain again. It made a last-minute, dramatic switch to avoid association with only Portugal on this matter. The Prime Minister implied that there was no switch the other day in the United Nations. I suggest that this is an action which is very close to political dishonesty. He has been backed in this, in interjection and in speeches, by practically every supporter on the other side. The question is: Did Australia switch? I want to devote just a moment or two to that question. If Australia did not switch, why did Mr. Hood attack the resolution against South Africa? If Australia did not switch, why did Mr. Hood repeat the declaration against intervention? His speech was quoted by the Prime Minister himself, and I read it from " Hansard ". This is what Mr. Hood said -

It must be pointed out in this connexion that the Charter does expressly set a limit to intervention by the United Nations in a field of essentially domestic jurisdiction.

Why repeat that, if we were not going to rely upon that once more? Mr. Hood continued -

In addition to those limits, there are further limits set by the Charter to the powers of the General Assembly. While there may be marginal ground here, many times fought over and contested, we should still pause before embarking on any course which would in effect throw away the whole intent and purpose of the limitations specifically put into the Charter.


Mr McMahon - What is wrong with that?


Mr CAIRNS - He was denning the position of abstaining from voting. That was clearly the case. If he was not in that position, why was there a special Cabinet meeting last week? Why was it called? It followed the decision by the United Kingdom Government not to abstain. Why was that meeting held? If that Cabinet meeting can be explained in any other way, why did Mr. Plimsoll make a second speech, which is something that I do not think was ever done before by Australia on a resolution of this kind. He had to make the second speech because he was going to say what Australia's voting record was to be. So I think that the evidence establishes a continuity of association since 1953, by Australia's voting record in the United Nations.

Then we can have a look at the Prime Minister's own speeches. The massacre at Sharpeville occurred early in 1960, but the Prime Minister continued to refuse, even at his press conference at Mascot the other day, to express any judgment on Sharpeville, and he has not expressed it yet. He has expressed no view as to the responsibility for this terrible massacre. How long are we to wait? He refused to express any moral judgment on apartheid until last Tuesday, in this place. Take his own statement in London at face value. He said that what was wrong with apartheid was that apartheid would not work. That was the first day that he came onto the moral ground.

So I think the case has been established. The Australian Prime Minister has been identified as the last, most persistent, and most emotional defender of Dr. Verwoerd, South Africa and apartheid. Australia has changed her vote, but the Prime Minister has not changed his attitude. I shall quote the Melbourne " Age " upon that point.

This is a newspaper that has always been able to put the case fairly for the Prime Minister of Australia. This is what the Melbourne !" Age " stated -

In his explanation to Parliament of his public statements on South Africa's withdrawal from the Commonwealth, Mr. Menzies has opened fire in all directions, but he has not retreated from the position he selected two weeks ago. He is unrepentant in his disagreement with Mr. Macmillan; he still believes that " the Commonwealth has been injured and not strengthened " by the departure of South Africa, and he still believes that in reaffirming the view that apartheid should have been left as domestic to South Africa he was defending the interests of his own country.

He is still in that position. The Prime Minister has chosen to associate himself with protecting South Africa on apartheid. I am not going to say that he has any sympathy with apartheid but he has associated Australia with it. But what is this thing with which 'he is associated? He says himself that it is separation of the African people for independent development. He implies that self-government will some day come to them. The facts are that the African people are not separate. They are forced to be integrated into the South African economy. What is this condition of apartheid? First, it is a separation of the landed area of South Africa so that 12 per cent, of the land is occupied by 66 per cent, of the people - the African people, the black people. That 12 per cent, of the land is called reserves. On those reserves, the poorest land in the whole of Africa, with no mineral resources, that which has been left over after three centuries of European selection of the best land in Africa, the African people are obliged to try to live. It is described as rural slums, quite inadequate to maintain any kind of a standard of living.

The Africans are forced to live upon these reserves until they can be forced out of the reserves to take employment in the European areas on low wages. There are about 440,000 of them employed in the mining industry, which has an annual production valued at £500,000,000. Those 440,000 work in that industry for an average wage of £44 a year, An amount of £17,500.000 goes in their wages out of the £500,000,000, which is the value of the gold and coal that are taken out. Any one who disputes those figures should have a look at this book entitled, " The People and

Policies of South Africa ", a most temperate and logical examination of the situation by Leo Marquard. Then there are about 480,000 people who are dragged out of the reserves to work in industry at a wage that averages £2 a week and who live in slum, industrial conditions. Another 2,150,000 people are employed in agriculture under three systems. The first is the system of the monthly wage. The family wage for an average of six-and-a-half persons is not more than £2 a week.

The second system is one of labour tenancy where they have a bit of land on European farms. On the average, these conditions are slightly better than the monthly wage system when the land is :good. The third system is the employment of prison labour on African farms. People who have been imprisoned for offences can be employed by farmers. There is a wide network of offences in South Africa. Farmers are magistrates, :and they are able to employ labour on a system which is parallel with the Australian system of assigned convict labour which came to an end in 1843. The whole position of the African people is based on an .act .of Parliament which requires them to register as though they were cattle. Having been registered, if they are Africans, they lose all rights to vote. They can move from place to place only during the course of their work.

This then is apartheid. Apartheid is not a system of separate development. It is a system of forced integration of the African people into a miserable, slave, low-wage economy. It is time the people of Australia knew the truth about this system that we have been protecting in the United Nations for so many years. We have a Prime Minister who sees no moral implications in this situation. He made no statement of a moral kind on this matter until 11th April. Honorable members on the Government side who are interjecting cannot point to any place in the record where the Prime Minister made a moral statement about apartheid until he spoke in this House on Tuesday last. In London, in his Savoy Hotel speech, he said that he was not going to moralize on the situation. He said apartheid was something that would not work and that was what was wrong with it. Of course it will not work! He sees only the legal question of sovereignty. Aus tralia has a nineteenth century 'Prime Minister and we -cannot afford to 'have one any longer.

What about examining this .argument within its logic just for a while? When we have finished that we will study Tibet if honorable members on the Government side want to raise that question. The position is this: We have had a lot of recriminations on this situation. I think we should bring an end to recriminations. The Opposition is trying to influence the situation in which your Prime Minister - not ours - has placed us.


Mr Harold Holt - He is Australia's Prime Minister.


Mr CAIRNS - We support very little of what the right honorable gentleman stands for. He is the one who recriminated all over the world on this situation. But we -must have no further support, implied or in any other way, for the policy of apartheid in South Africa. The Melbourne " Age ", a newspaper that has been more than fair to the right honorable gentleman throughout his political career, has said of this matter something which is well worth considering.


Mr Harold Holt - There are plenty of favorable .press comments. Why not quote them?


Mr CAIRNS - Has the Melbourne " Age " not been fair to the Prime Minister? Is it not reasonable to quote the " Age " ? This is what that newspaper had to say of this situation -

Our relations with the Afro-Asian world have suffered a severe setback, and patient labour will be required to restore our previous goodwill.

Let us begin now with this patient labour of restoring goodwill. Let us be concerned with the strengthening of Commonwealth relations on a multi-racial basis, not on the old basis of the Carlton Club for which the right honorable gentleman stands. Unlike the former Minister for External Affairs, now Lord Casey, the Prime Minister has never shown any real sympathy with the under-dog. He has never shown any real sympathy for the coloured people of the world or for those who have fought their way free of colonialism. Let us see that the Commonwealth of Nations is established on a basis of moral principles of equality, human dignity and welfare and not on the dry legal bones of the doctrine of sovereignty so dear to the Prime Minister. There is not any conflict between these two doctrines as the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) endeavoured to argue in this House to-night. There is no conflict between the doctrines of sovereignty and justice. They mutually condition and determine each other. If they do not do so, those who have founded themselves on the doctrine of sovereignty will fall. That has been the history of the world. We cannot avoid the application of the doctrine of justice by any kind of legal formula.

Australia will have to stand up also to that test. Australia will not be able to shelter behind any artificial barrier of the doctrine of sovereignty. But Australia does not need to shelter behind that barrier. On the contrary, we can see things as the best people in South Africa see them, and as they are seen by those who wrote this book, " South Africa - the Road Ahead ", edited by Spotswood, which shows that the great truth of the century is that the old order has gone.







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